by Khaled Amayreh
In another disingenuous feat meant to undercut Palestinian efforts to obtain recognition at the United Nations of a state in the West Bank and Gaza Strip, Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu is considering a new "peace plan" that would throw the proverbial ball back into the Palestinian court.
The Palestinian Authority (PA) is saying it will ask the UN General Assembly to formally recognise the "State of Palestine" in September, unless a real breakthrough is reached in long-stalled peace talks with Israel.
Israel has consistently refused to give up the spoils of the 1967 war and has kept up expanding Jewish colonies in the West Bank and occupied East Jerusalem, which neutral observers say is killing whatever chances remain for the establishment of a viable and territorially contiguous Palestinian state.
Israel is also adamantly refusing to allow for the repatriation of millions of Palestinian refugees who were uprooted from their homes in what is now Israel when the Jewish state was created in 1948.
Already dismissed by Palestinian officials as another mendacious exercise in public relations, Netanyahu's plan is slated to be outlined in a speech before a joint session of US Congress on 24 May.
Though strongly rejected by the Palestinians, and likely to be dismissed by the Europeans and other players involved in the peace process, Netanyahu hopes to convince Congress of his sincerity and goodwill.
Congress is considered a bastion of support for Israel with most of its members beholden to the powerful US Jewish lobby.
Notorious for his dishonesty, prevarication and trickery, Netanyahu has not spelled out the content of his plan. However, according to reports in the Hebrew media, the plan, which is subject to modification and addition, includes a repositioning of Israeli occupation forces in parts of the West Bank and some improvements of Palestinian daily life.
"We are rather talking about a long process the implementation of which will take at least five years, during which Israel will allow Palestinians to move more freely throughout the West Bank," wrote Alex Fishman of the prominent Hebrew daily, Yediot Aharonot.
In addition, Israel would transfer to PA control parts of territories classified according to the Oslo Accords as "Area B" and "Area C" where Israel maintains total or majority security control.
In reality, however, Israeli forces have reserved the right to enter "Area A" territories (supposedly under Palestinian control) at will, without coordination with Palestinian authorities.
Pursuant to the Netanyahu plan, not a single Jewish settlement would be dismantled.
Hence, Netanyahu's so-called peace plan is empty of content that would lead to the end of the decades-old Israeli occupation. Viewed at face value, the plan is merely another effort aimed at deceiving the international community and buying yet more time for Israel to change "facts on the ground".
According to Israeli and US sources, Netanyahu has been under pressure from "Israel's friends" in Washington to help the Obama administration derail the PA plan to seek formal UN recognition in September. All concerned parties realise that the Netanyahu's purported plan is merely tactical in nature and can produce no genuine breakthrough towards peace in the Middle East.
In recent weeks, Israeli intellectuals and veteran politicians have warned that Israel stands to lose as a result of revolutions sweeping the Arab region, especially Egypt. The Israeli media has also quoted retired Israeli political and military figures as describing the dramatic collapse of the Mubarak regime as a "strategic loss".
Successive Israeli governments have taken it for granted that Mubarak would protect Israel from the worst criticism in regard to Palestinian matters. Israel expressed satisfaction, for example, with the Mubarak regime's position during Israel's devastating onslaught on Gaza more than two years ago. Sources spoke then of "connivance and collusion" between Israel and the Mubarak regime in "punishing" Hamas and keeping Gaza under siege.
Israel and its allies are now extremely worried about the probable negative impact of Arab revolutions on the standing of the Jewish state. One Israeli intellectual intimated recently that while the Israelis are trying to reassure themselves that everything will be fine, there is a panic under the surface. "The geopolitical reality we have been building brick by brick for over 50 years is suddenly collapsing before our eyes; and we can do virtually nothing to redeem it."
Last week, a group of Israeli security and business leaders who met at Tel Aviv University warned that time is not on Israel's side. "The changing landscape of the Middle East and Israel's international image demands a new Israeli peace initiative." Speaking at the same forum, former Shin Bet Director General Yaakov Perry described the current status quo in the West Bank as "presenting a moral threat to the State of Israel".
Perry continued: "Our continued presence in the (occupied) territories is a threat to Zionism. With every passing minute, further damage is done for the State of Israel. One thing is clear, the Middle East is changing, dramatic things are happening around us, we are witnessing historic changes towards reform, most of which are not being led by extremist groups ..."
In a noted speech at Bar Illan University on 14 June 2009, Netanyahu spoke of a diminutive and deformed Palestinian state without sovereignty and territorial contiguity that is firmly subservient to Israel in every conceivable sphere of life. In light of his so-called new peace plan, there appears evidence that Netanyahu wants now to impose it.
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